Sunday 20 October 2019

Deaths as India and Pakistan resume shelling in Kashmir

It occurred near the so-called Line of Control.

Pakistani soldiers patrol in the area where Indian planes were reportedly shot down by Pakistani forces earlier this week (Aqeel Ahmed/AP)
Pakistani soldiers patrol in the area where Indian planes were reportedly shot down by Pakistani forces earlier this week (Aqeel Ahmed/AP)

By Roshan Mughal and Aijaz Hussain, Associated Press

Soldiers from India and Pakistan have targeted each other along the volatile frontier in disputed Kashmir, killing at least six civilians and wounding four others, officials said.

Fighting resumed overnight into dawn, leaving two siblings and their mother dead in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

The three died after a shell fired by Pakistani soldiers hit their home in Poonch region near the so-called Line of Control that divides the Himalayan territory of Kashmir between the two nuclear-armed rivals, police said.

The children’s father was critically wounded and has been hospitalised.

In Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, government official Umar Azam said Indian troops with heavy weapons “indiscriminately targeted border villagers” along the Line of Control, killing a boy and wounding three others.

He said several homes were destroyed by Indian shelling.

A Pakistani military statement later said two civilians were killed and two others wounded in the fresh fighting.

Both countries’ officials used the routine description for the military confrontations, saying their soldiers retaliated “befittingly”, and blamed the other for “unprovoked” violation of the 2003-ceasefire accord at several sectors along the Kashmir frontier, targeting both army posts as well as villages.

Tensions have been running high since Indian aircraft crossed into Pakistan on Tuesday, carrying out what India called a pre-emptive strike against militants blamed for a February 14 suicide bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir that killed 40 Indian troops.

Pakistan retaliated, shooting down a MiG-21 fighter jet on Wednesday and detained its pilot, who was returned to India on Friday in a peace gesture.

The violence this week marked the most serious escalation of the long-simmering conflict since 1999, when Pakistan’s military sent a ground force into Indian-controlled Kashmir at Kargil.

That year also saw an Indian fighter jet shoot down a Pakistani naval aircraft, killing all 16 on board.

On both sides of Kashmir, thousands of people have fled to government-run temporary shelters or relatives’ homes in safer areas to escape deadly and relentless shelling along the frontier.

Many of these villages dot the rugged and mountainous frontier, which is marked by razor wire, watch towers and bunkers amid tangled bushes, forests and fields of rice and corn.

Pakistan and India have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir since their independence from British rule in 1947.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training rebels and sending them into Indian-controlled Kashmir to launch attacks against government targets.

Pakistan denies the charge, saying it provides moral and diplomatic support to Kashmiris fighting for right to self-determination.

Rebel groups have been fighting Indian rule since 1989 and demand that Kashmir be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

Anti-India sentiment runs deep in the region, and most people support the rebels’ cause against Indian rule while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control.

Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.

PA Media

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